Paper use at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development was expected to be cut from 20 mililon sheets of papers to only 1 million thanks to the UN PaperSamrt initiative.
Rio+20 was the first major UN conference to carry out a “PaperSmart” programme to cut paper use, with a web platform built for sharing all conference documents so they could be downloaded anytime.
With nearly 50,000 people taking part in the Conference, the United Nations and the Brazilian Government emphasized the need to put sustainable measures in place that would avoid the use of pollutants and the production of waste – in line with the objectives of the conference.
“Normally, at a big conference like this one, we would have used more than 20 million sheets of paper,” said Magnus Olafsson, the Director of the Meetings and Publishing Division of the UN Department for General Assembly and Conference Management, who also heads the UN PaperSmart initiative. “But for Rio+20 we expect to use less than one million.”
In an interview, Mr. Olafsson stressed that “PaperSmart’ does not mean “paperless,” and while there are still large quantities of paper being distributed at the Rio+20 site, the amount of paper in circulation is far less than at previous conferences.
“For 67 years we have distributed statements of Member States in the media rooms. Reality shows that very few people actually take the statements with them, most of them would leave behind so at the end of the day you will have a big pile of unused statements,” Mr. Olafsson said, adding that paper statements also have the disadvantage of not allowing onscreen editing.
“This is not a fight against paper, it is rather a war against waste,” he emphasized. “The statements are all available in an online portal and if you want a paper copy you can request it.”
161 totems (electronic information points) were installed in major hotels, airports and other locations around the city with information on the event, tips for tourism in the city, transport options, the Conference agenda, maps and other information services, all in Portuguese, English and Spanish.
The PaperSmart model has also helped to provide access to materials for the hearing and visually impaired, such as making documents available to be read via Braille, a common system that allows the visually impaired to read and write, and offering sign language interpretation for main meetings.
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